All For One

This post and its comments were originally published on Transformation City Church’s blog.

 

That afternoon, the intersection of North and Fond Du Lac Avenues was busy being the busiest intersection in Milwaukee. Everyone was Pooh with their head in the bee hive, selfish selfish selfish and stupid stupid stupid.

In the crosswalk, there was a man wearing a Packers jersey, a floral scarf on his head and carrying a single plastic white hanger. Each footstep seemed a philosophical statement: No one cares, therefore I do not care. No one honked, no one looked, no one pointed. To us he was a human construction barrel, to be avoided.

As I turned, there was a woman standing by the bus stop, not waiting for the bus. The combination of her clothes – or what was left of them – suggested a costume. I wanted to give her a ride, but I realized that might be misinterpreted by her, and the police.

Further down the street, a young couple waited to cross. She held the child like a bag of groceries and he stood five feet away like he didn’t know them. The smoke from his cigarette slipped into my cracked window.

I looked into the rear view mirror and a pair of narrowed eyes looked back. I rubbed the gunk from the corners. I looked away. I looked ahead.

When I arrived at the community house, it was time for Bible Club. A boy gripped my arm like it was a branch hanging over a rushing river. “What do you think God looks like?” Asked Kevin. “He’s a yellow spirit,” Shouted one kid. “I bet He’s got big sandals,” Shouted a second. The third was so quiet Kevin had to repeat it for us: “Maybe He looks like all of us put together.”

Kids on the Block

This post and its comments were originally published on Transformation City Church’s blog.

 

People are looking at us. Not us. Me. I look suspicious. A white man driving a car full of black kids. In the most segregated city in the country. But statistics are made by people; statistics do not make people.

The girl in the front seat? A few nights ago she was crying on our front steps. I wondered how long she’d been sitting there. Kevin asked her what was wrong. Megan sat down and the girl pressed into her, eyes squeezed shut, as if wanting to be absorbed. Someone else’s mother called out. The girl walked over to her. “She just can’t find her mama,” the mother said.

The boy in the back seat? The other night he was holding his baby sister. “’Sup Ben?” He nodded, implying that holding a baby was now cool, because he was doing it. This is the same boy who recently rode his bike right in front of my car without looking. I imagined hitting him, holding his little body in the road, saying, No. No. No.

The boy sitting next to him? A couple days ago he asked, “Could you bring out the hoop?” I followed him to the garage, unlocked it, reached for the handle to lift up the door and stopped. “I’ve got to get a glove to lift it up,” I said, remembering how thin and sharp the handle is. “It’s fine, I’ve got it,” he said, gripping the handle and yanking upward. “You’ve got thick skin.” I told him. He smiled and held up his hand. It was bleeding.

“Does everyone have on their seatbelts?” I ask, checking the rear view mirror. I don’t see any kids. I lower the mirror and three little faces look back. While they are in my car I will keep them safe.

Dye

The week before Easter the rain descends upon the city. It gathers everything in its toothless mouth and gums until everything is glop. Across the street from our house, in a tree, there is a pale plastic bag hung on a branch. It looks like the shroud of a ghost. It sags as though it once carried something heavy and now is empty.

The local newspaper’s website reports that publicly funded food assistance is a fraud. Some recipients sell their food cards for cash. Some for drugs. The newspaper subscribers comment about what should be done.

A detective knocks on our door and warns of a young man in a dark hooded sweatshirt who has been abducting young women and assaulting them in abandoned garages. “Have you seen anything out of the ordinary?” He asks. I look around the neighborhood. “What is out of the ordinary?” I ask.

At Bible Study the children attempt to dye eggs and succeed in dyeing their hands; it looks like they have strangled rainbows. With water and soap they rinse and wash and rinse and wash but the stains are still there.

The week after Easter the rain descends again upon the city. Most of the bag is gone; a few tattered strips are the only evidence of it. Something must have carried it away.

Children of God

Even as a child I hated children. I saw them as messengers from Satan. He planted mockery in their moist minds and it bloomed out of their mouths and I kept that vile bloom in a vase. I grew up changing the water, giving it fertilizer, keeping it alive. Until as an adult I hated children.

Then God asked me to move into this community house, in a neighborhood swarming with children.

“God!” I laughed, “You are so funny.”

“I am,” He replied, “But now I’m serious.”

God has a sense of humor, but I have no sense, so often he is reduced to a running joke, which runs me over until I understand.

“God!” I shouted, “I’ll move in. Are you happy?”

“I am,” He replied, “Now do it.”

So I did. I took things down and put them up. I lifted things up and set them down. I sat down and I stood up. I thought, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know why I’m doing it.

And the children came unto me. Loudly.

Actually, they came unto a weekly bible club. It’s led by my 4 housemates, who in personality and/or appearance resemble a Doberman Pinscher, a Border Collie, a Golden Retriever and a Beagle. They make a good team.

I am the Chihuahua. At every child’s squeal, my eyes bulge and my body trembles.

This week the leader is talking about how even though Jesus was God, He washed the feet of people. Even those He didn’t like. Even His enemies.

The leader requests that the children remove their socks. After reveling in a theatrical ecstasy of disgust, they do. He takes old ice cream buckets and fills them with water. His big hands lower their little feet into the water. Their squeals sound different.

“Could I wash someone’s feet?’ I say, but none of us hear me.

I watch and wait. I wait and watch. Long, longer, too long, long enough.

“Could I wash someone’s feet?’ I say again.

“Oh, I don’t think there’s anyone left,” The leader says.

Sadness settles around my heart. Something was opened for a moment, and I didn’t enter it. The children did.